Consumer of the smart speaker are increasing day by day. Last year alone almost 78 million smart speakers had been sold. Amazon Alexa is one of the most selling smart speakers in the world. Maybe you are using an Alexa while reading this article. But do you know Amazon pay people just to listen to what you are asking Alexa. Yes, this is a reality as reported by Bloomberg.
A team mix of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who work in outposts from Boston to Costa Rica, India, and Romania are listening to your voice clip sends by Alexa device to make Alexa better. These workers have signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program. Amazon Alexa, the digital home assistant, gets smarter every day using your voice recording. It happens with the help of an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) and these human workers.
How Serious This Security Concern Is:
According to a spokesperson of Amazon, “We have strict technical and operational safeguards and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system. Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow. All information is treated with high confidentiality and we use multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption and audits of our control environment to protect it.”
From the beginning of the smart speaker’s era, people have concerns about the privacy of these devices. These devices are designed to listen to you all the time. Although the companies always assure that customer’s data is safe and private but they are not always transparent about what they actually do the data.
What You Should Know:
Alexa only records and sends your recording when it is turned ON by the Wake Call Words eg. ‘Alexa’, ‘Echo’, or ‘computer’. But according to some of the employees, Alexa some times turned ON accidentally by noise. The employees also said that some time come across many sensitive and criminal recording. But they only leave those recording and go to the next one. Because according to Amazon, they take the security and privacy of its customers very seriously, says a company official. And Interfering on those matters can compromise the privacy of the customer.
Why They Do This:
Like all other smart speakers, Alexa relies on Artificial Neural Network (ANN) for speech recognition and response. But the technology still has some flows when it comes to fully understand what someone is saying. For example, if someone asks “Justin Beiber” then he probably looking for his songs so this audit ensures that Alexa responses with the songs of Justin Beiber and nothing else.
What Other Company Is Doing:
Other two big names in this field are Google Home and Apple Homepod. And unfortunately, they are also doing something like this. Apple’s Siri also has human helpers, who work to gauge whether the digital assistant’s interpretation of requests lines up with what the person said. According to Apple these recoding doesn’t have any personal information and they only store this recording for six months. But in some cases, it can be 1 year depending on the need.
At Google, some people also listen to user interaction with the assistant to help improve the service. But the recording lacs personal information and the audio is distorted so that no one can identify the audio.
What You Can Do:
In Alexa’s privacy settings, the company gives users the option of disabling the use of their voice recordings for the development of new features. You can turn ON this option for the ease of mind. But we never know if still, they can listen to what you are saying. If you are really concerned about your privacy and don’t want to take any chances then they only best thing you can do is stop using these devices.